Wednesday 14 June 2023

Minister Rebar Ahmed strengthens Kurdistan-US partnership in official visit to US

Washington DC, USA ( – KRG Interior Minister Reber Ahmed, accompanied by Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, had an extensive visit to Washington DC in June in which he had a series of meetings at key US government institutions including the White House, the US Congress, Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and the US Agency for International Development.

In all his meetings, Minister Ahmed thanked the United States for its support to the people of Kurdistan over the past three decades and emphasized the success of US-Kurdistan cooperation in various fields, including humanitarian and security. This was Minister Ahmed’s first official visit to the United States and the wide range of engagements reflected the strength and breadth of the bilateral relationship.

The KRG Ministry of Interior has a broad remit that includes policing, border protection, fire service, countering drug and human trafficking and money-laundering, as well as the safety and care of displaced communities. The Zerevani, Kurdistan’s armed police force for the maintenance of public order and safety, and the Joint Crisis Coordination Center, the KRG’s lead institution for the coordination, response and management of all phases of crises and disasters, are also under the authority of the ministry.

On June 12, Minister Ahmed began his program by meeting with Celeste Wallander, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, at the Pentagon. They discussed the enduring defeat of ISIS, the significance of memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs and the Department of Defense, and how to continue to strengthen the US-Kurdistan strategic partnership. The meeting was also attended by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dana Stroul.

The continuing vigilance against ISIS terrorists was also the subject of discussion in Minister Ahmed’s meetings with Chris Landberg, Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and separately with Ethan Goldrich, the Department of State's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Syria and Levant. The talks emphasized the importance of sustained cooperation on security and humanitarian matters and the challenge of repatriating Al-Hol camp detainees to their home countries.

In his meeting with Andrew Plitt, the USAID Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, the Minister addressed pressing humanitarian issues in the Kurdistan Region, particularly the challenges faced by internally displaced people and refugees. There are close to 1 million IDPs and refugees in the Kurdistan Region, many of them having lived in camps for nearly a decade, while international assistance has dwindled.

On the same day, Minister Ahmed was received by Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, at the Department of State. They discussed a wide range of issues that concern their portfolios: the democratic experience in the Kurdistan Region, with a particular focus on parliamentary elections this year; Kurdistan’s model of peaceful coexistence among religious and ethnic components; countering drug and human-trafficking; the positive role of NGOs; and continuing to promote human rights.

Continuing the discussions on human rights, freedom of expression and assistance to displaced Yazidis and other IDPs, Minister Ahmed had friendly and constructive discussions, on June 13, with Erin Barclay, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and, on June 15, with Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Similar discussions took place the same day at a State Department roundtable hosted by Steve Bitner, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, where Minister Ahmed reiterated the KRG’s commitment to the stability and sovereignty of Iraq and stronger US-Kurdistan ties.

In his meeting with Terry Wolff, Special Advisor to President Joe Biden and the Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council, on June 14, Minister Ahmed discussed the evolving situation in the region and opportunities for continued partnership with the United States. The Minister thanked America for its support to Kurdistan and Iraq and Mr Wolff conveyed the White House’s support to the historic partnership.

In a friendly, productive and candid meeting with Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, on June 16, the KRG Minister and Ms Leaf covered crucial topics, including Ebril-Baghdad relations, the federal budget law, oil exports through Turkey, support for displaced people and the democratic experience in Kurdistan. They both emphasized their appreciation for the immense value of the Kurdistan-US partnership.

On the same day, the KRG Minister met with Robert Silvers, Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy and Plans. They discussed global challenges, such as drug and human-trafficking, how to cooperate on countering them and how to better support communities at time of natural disaster.

In addition to these meetings with the US Administration, Minister Ahmed met with members of Congress, was the guest speaker at a public event hosted by the US Institute of Peace and the American University of Kurdistan and had meetings at the US Commission on Religious Freedom, the Heritage Foundation and the Wilson Center.